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Monday, August 31, 2009


Here's the idea. "There's no point in discussing/arguing/thinking about this further because it hasn't been decided in a long time and we can't know." It's a popular notion applied to several ideas, primarily religious in nature. I've heard it remarkably often from folks in discussions regarding predestination and the like. "Well, folks much smarter than me have argued about it for centuries, so I have no reason to think I'll figure it out."

I'm puzzled by a couple of aspects of this line of thinking. First, is it the case that if something cannot be "known" (I put quotes around it because "known" is likely hard to define), it cannot be discussed, argued, or evaluated? I ask because there is very, very little that we can actually know for certain without any possibility of being wrong or any shadow of doubt. Hey, philosophers have argued for a long time if we can even know that we exist! How much can we actually know? Most of us seem to operate quite fine on "pretty sure" without requiring an absolute "know". So what's the value of the disclaimer "There's no point ... since we can't know"?

The other thing that puzzles me is the suggestion that there is no answer. As I said, for instance, philosophers have argued for centuries about whether or not we can know that we exist. The possibilities? "Yes" or "No". That's it. Two possibilities. Yes, we can know, or no, we cannot. The suggestion seems to be that, since people have argued the topic for a long time and we can't know, there is no right answer. But, folks, we're down to only two possibilities. Surely one of them is right. So we shouldn't discuss/argue/think about it because someone is not sure yet? I just don't get it.

Let's take Predestination. The Bible uses the word. No doubt about it. Scofield, who was no Calvinist, notes in the Scofield Study Bible that while Predestination causes intellectual difficulties, discarding it won't work because it is clearly in the Bible. Now, the subject (even the definition) has been debated for a long time. Christians have not agreed on a conclusion. Some discard it. Some embrace it to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Most fall in between. Does this mean that the subject is unimportant? I don't think so, since it does play a prominent role in Scripture. Does it mean that we shouldn't discuss, argue, or think about it? That would seem equally obviously false because it's in the Bible. I would think that whatever is in God's Word should be examined. Is it true that, since it has been argued for centuries without a unilateral conclusion, there is no right answer? That is another "false". God intended something when He put it in there. We should figure out what it is.

To me, generally when I hear "There's no point in discussing it because we can't know", I'm not looking at a genuine argument. I'm looking at a smoke screen. "It's too hard. I don't want to think about it." Too often it's "Well, the things you are saying make sense, but they contradict what I believe, so I'm going to stop this before I have to change my mind." Because the argument "We can't know so we shouldn't ask" makes no sense whatsoever.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

He's Not There

I was watching the news the other day while they were reporting on Senator Kennedy's funeral proceedings. The reporter explained the sequence: "Senator Kennedy will be here for the day while mourners pay their respects, then he will go to ..." And I thought, "How odd! The man is dead. He's not there."

Our rites and rituals put a lot of stock in bodies. That's not a complaint; that's just the way it is. But it illustrates the problem. We are so tied to the physical that we find it hard to realize that it's just a body, an "Earth suit", something that allows us (not merely a body) to inhabit this environment. When we hear of tragedies like "premature death" or the passing of a well-loved person, we are hurt because we value the physical presence. And we are offended if the suggestion is that "God took him (or her)". Because, you see, we put a lot of stock in bodies. And we assume God does as well.

Personally, I'll be glad to be freed from mine. I know in Whom I have believed. I know (not merely "believe") where I'll be when I leave this body. I know that the "suit" that I will inhabit there will be much better than this one. More importantly, I know that the One with whom I will be will erase all tears and provide all joy. I suspect, based on family history and personal health and such, it will be a long time before I get to that moment, but when I do ... Oh, that will be glory for me! My loved ones, I'm sure, will mourn their loss, but it won't be loss for me, and I won't be there.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Government Charity

In the years prior to the 20th century, the standard source of charity for many societies (including the United States) was the Church. And well it should be. Many commands in Scripture address feeding the poor, tending to the sick, helping the homeless, caring for widows and orphans, all that sort of thing. To this day a large portion of charitable organizations and hospitals are still connected to the Church. (For some reason many of the detractors of Christianity today seem to forget that little detail.) However, for the last century or so, the task of caring for the needy has shifted from the Church to the government.

The biggest shift in America took place during the Great Depression. President Roosevelt enacted the Social Security Act to take care of the older generation. Other programs followed immediately. Today we have a host of government welfare programs that include Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and Medicaid. Entire government agencies have been constructed to manage these programs, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And now the debate is on regarding health care reform and the role of the government in it.

I am (again) not going to debate whether or not the President's plan is a good one. I'm not going to even argue (this time) whether it is a Christian issue or not. What I want to comment on here is something most of us don't think about in this dialog that includes all of the government programs of this type. I want to look at what we lose. No, not taxes. I'm talking about what we as Christians lose in this configuration.

There is a standard proverbial concept with which most of us are familiar: You generally value more highly those things you work for. When I was a kid, my brother and I wanted to go to summer camp with the church group. We needed $50 each. Dad put us to work. We spent weeks tearing out the dense plant life that owned our back yard. We cut down trees, removed bamboo plants, cut back overgrowth ... it was a summer of work. For that work my dad paid us $50 each. We went to camp. Now, note that my father didn't save himself any money. He could have paid the money to send us, but instead he simply had us earn it. But that camp was different than any other because we earned it. You see, you generally value more highly those things you work for.

We are expected, as Christians, to take care of people in need. Jesus expects His people to feed the hungry, give hospitality to the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matt 25:35-36). (Odd ... He doesn't say, "provide health care for the sick", but rather "visit the sick". But I digress.) Paul commended the believers in Macedonia. He says "In a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality" (2 Cor 8:2). That is, they didn't give when they had much. No, they gave "beyond their ability" (2 Cor 8:3). Love is the mark of a Christian, and giving is one of the marks of love. Further, Paul urges believers, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Gal 6:9).

Enter the question of government and charity. Government took over because the Church couldn't bear the load anymore. Why couldn't the Church bear the load? Well, a new, popular teaching told Christians, "You don't need to tithe. That's Old Testament. We are in a new Dispensation." To this day we are generally told, "Tithing is then, not now. You know ... 'the Lord loves a cheerful giver' ..." as if "I'm not a cheerful giver" is a perfectly good reason to withhold from God what is rightly His. We have become increasingly more self-absorbed until some of the commands from Scripture seem ludicrous to us. Take, for instance, this "ridiculous" statement:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not look out simply for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).
"I mean ... seriously, Paul. Regard others as more important than myself? Don't you know that loving others starts with loving myself? And how can it be a good thing to look out for the personal interests of others over my own? Sure, once I'm taken care of I'll look out for others, but I have needs, Paul."

We now see our taxes as performing the charity we are required to perform. Someone else is doing it, aren't they? I'm paying, aren't I? What's the big deal? Of course, we don't know if the tax money we paid went to fix a road or to feed a hungry family, do we? Nor do we particularly care. Someone is doing it. What's the big deal? Of course, the truth is that someone is not doing it. We still have needy, homeless, poor, sick, and imprisoned people. But my point is that what we lose when we hand it over to government care is our obedience. What we lose is that reaping Paul promised. What we lose when we leave these things to the government is the blessing of doing what we ought, the joy of obedience, the peace of participation. Having not worked for it ourselves, we value less the charity we ourselves are supposed to give and offer excuses for not doing it ourselves.

Is it a bad thing that government is helping the poor or feeding the hungry or wanting to fix the health care issue? I would guess not in terms of those being helped. But it certainly is in terms of the loss Christians are experiencing for failing to tithe, to give, to love. My government was never commanded to do those things. I was. When we surrender to others what God has asked from us, we become disobedient children. That is our loss. Is it wrong for the government to do those things? Not really. It is wrong for Christians to require of the government what God required of us.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Contradictions Revisited

Some time ago I wrote a sort of challenge for my readers to compare two views and see if they were actually contradictory. No one actually took up the challenge, and I'd like to claim that this is why I never followed it up, but the truth is I simply forgot. So ... are the claims of Arminians versus Calvinists actually contradictory or are they not necessarily so?

Here's how I'm going to do this. Since I am tagged a "standard Calvinist", I will respond to the "Classical Arminian" view. You understand, of course, that there are lots of variations in both "Calvinist" and "Arminian" views, so I can only offer my own perspective. But since I too often see Calvinism misrepresented, I think it is incumbent on me to respond from my own perspective to the Classical Arminian view. Are we in contradiction? More to the point ... am I in contradiction?

1. Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation.

Agreed. Yes, perfectly agreed. Oddly, when I examine the majority view of the standard Arminians, it seems that they disagree with their own view, but I'm in full agreement. Billy Graham expressed the classical perspective: "God has done 99.9% of what needs to happen for you to be saved. Now you have to do that last 0.1%." But ... didn't you just say that humans cannot make "any effort" towards salvation? Further, if that 99.9% does not actually accomplish salvation, but that final 0.1% is the key that makes it effective, isn't that a really big something? I don't get it. But I agree fully with their Point 1.

2. Salvation is possible by grace alone.

Agreed. No question at all. Again, though, do they actually believe this? I only ask because I don't see the contradiction. We understand grace to be "unmerited favor". Standard Calvinism says that salvation occurs by unmerited favor alone. Classical Arminianism says that God puts together the sequence of events that will lead a person to faith (called "Middle Knowledge"). It seems to me that there is some merit when a person comes to faith, isn't there? Again, I'm confused, but I agree with Point 2.

3. Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation.

Agreed, again! But ... again, if my faith causes or contributes to my salvation, isn't there some human effort involved? In other words, do they believe this? I generally do.

4. God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus.

Ah, now, see? Here's where we find a genuine contradiction. Isn't it interesting that this is the first? Some would paint us as so far apart, but it's not true. I would say that if God's choice of me is conditional on my choice of Him, then we're in direct contradiction to points 1-3 of Classical Arminianism. I am able to make an effort toward salvation. It isn't "grace alone". I do contribute a large effort to my salvation. (Consider this. If I am naturally unable to make any effort toward salvation, but I am able to contribute the faith required for God to choose me, that is a huge effort -- overcoming the impossible.)

5. Jesus' atonement was for all people.

Okay, this is a little ... questionable. If by "atonement" we mean "the price is paid", then there is no need to preach the Gospel. All people are atoned. End of problem. Whew! Glad we're okay now. Of course, no classical Arminian would agree with that, so that can't be it. So the "atonement" that is "for all people" is only potential. Nothing was actually paid. Payment only occurs when we initiate that final 0.1%, that final step of faith, that one thing that we who are unable to do anything actually do. In this case, it can only be said that "Jesus' potential atonement was for all people" (or affirm universalism). But the standard Calvinism doesn't dispute that. Standard Calvinism simply says that Jesus actually accomplished the payment for sin of those who would be saved. So the question isn't the extent of the atonement. The question is the intent. When Christ died, did He intend to save everyone and fail, or did He intend to save some and succeed?

6. God allows His grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe.

Agreed. Yes, agreed. Grace can be resisted. Indeed, it is the Calvinist position (and the Arminian position -- Point 1) that all humans are unwilling to believe. Therefore, all humans resist grace. Of course, given Point 1, Point 2, and Point 3, the Arminians have a problem. If humans can always resist His grace, then how could anyone ever be saved? The Calvinist would say that people can resist God's grace, sure, but there comes a point where God is capable of overcoming their natural inclination to only sin, their natural hostility toward God, their spiritually dead condition, and enables them to be willing to believe.

7. Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith.

Agreed. ("What?? Can you say that??") Yes, I agree. As I said, I'm offering my "standard Calvinist" perspective, but I agree with Point 7. Salvation can be lost. "Oh," you say, "then you agree that there are folks who have lost their salvation?" Oh, no, that's not what I agreed with. I agreed that it can be lost, not that it has been lost. I believe that God is able to keep His own from straying. I regard the warnings of Scripture about losing salvation as largely the means that God uses to keep His own from straying too far. I believe that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but I believe that this happens because God is at work in us making us both willing and able to do that (Phil 2:12-13). So I agree with Point 7's premise, but disagree with the conclusion that it has ever happened.

As it turns out, we end up with agreement all the way through ... at least mostly. Point 4 is a real contradiction, but as far as I can tell it's not merely a contradiction of Calvinism -- it's a contradiction of Arminianism. And that Point 5 gets a little dicey, but not just for me. It's tough for Arminians to maintain as well. So it turns out that there isn't much in the way of genuine contradiction here between the two stated views. The question is do Arminians actually believe what they claim to believe? That might produce some contradictions.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Free Will Defined

This entry is not mine. My son, David, wrote it. I thought it was worth a read for others, so I am including it here. Enjoy.

The argument of the requirements for salvation in Christ has gone on for a long time. The obvious opponents are Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinists argue that only the elect are saved, and nothing Man can do or choose can determine salvation. Arminians claim that God does not override our free will and that we must come to Him and choose Him as our Lord. Both sides have strong Biblical defenses, and both tend to denounce the other as restricting God or enhancing Man. But I think the argument between the two fails if you only give a proper definition of "Free Will".

The first question that should be asked when we are told that God wouldn't infringe upon our free will is, "What is Free Will?" What does it mean to say that we have a free will?

It can't mean that we have the ability to do what ever we please, however we please, whenever we please. Free will is limited by capability. I cannot choose to soar in the air as a bird, for example.

It can't mean being able to choose without any outside influence. Every choice we make includes some outside influence. I choose to run a red light or stop at it based on what the law says and by what the consequences of breaking that law could be. Free will without the influence of outside stimulus could only work for a solitary person in a vacuum. Everywhere we go and look, we are influenced by something, so that can't be "Free Will".

So, Free Will must be the ability to make choices based off outside stimuli, and within our ability to make such a choice. This is why I can believe that only the Elect are saved, and why we must make a choice to follow Christ, and not have conflicting ideas. We are sinners separated from God. Our spirit (the portion of us that interacts with the metaphysical) is dead. If the portion of us that is able to interact with the metaphysical, i.e. God, is dead, then we cannot make a choice for God. God must first make our spirit alive before we can choose him, and those spirits he regenerates are the Elect. Once our spirit has been regenerated, the clarity of the Gospel is shown to us, and thus we choose Christ.

God has not forced the Elect into salvation, but given them the only means to salvation. And though some say that since you can't choose Christ, then there is no point in evangelizing. Then I say, shame on you. We can't possibly know who are the Elect, and we are commanded to make disciples. God graciously uses us in His process of reviving dead spirits, so we should be encouraged to do the work He has appointed us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gender Bender

I'm trying to figure this out. I imagine you've heard the story. South African runner, Caster Semenya, ran for the gold in the women's 800-meter world championship. Now there's a question, it seems, about her gender. There are various reasons. She had dramatic improvement over previous efforts. The women she beat out suggested she was a man. Whatever. So now they want to perform gender tests on her.

The question I don't get is who cares? No, no, don't misunderstand me. Sure, it would be wrong for a man to compete in a woman's race (even though women are constantly pushing their way into men's sports). I'm fine with that. But haven't we eliminated gender in this world? I'm thinking primarily of the transgender folk. You know ... those guys who believe they are women trapped in a male body (or vice versa). What we are told is that they are genuine females (or males). They hold that their "gender identity" simply doesn't match their "assigned sex". So when that guy gets all the required treatments and operations, we are to now consider him a girl. How dare you think otherwise? It doesn't matter that gender tests would say otherwise. You can't think of it that way.

So, now the IAAF wants to test Semenya for gender. She is presenting herself as a woman. We are told that we should honor whatever gender someone presents. So what does it matter what the test show? It doesn't matter ... right? Or does it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Care Reform

According to, less than 0.05% of doctors face serious state sanctions each year. About 1% of patients in New York were casualties of medical malpractice in 1984, and it appears that the numbers haven't changed much. There hasn't been a significant change in the numbers of malpractice suits for a long time. Malpractice is defined as "a breach a standard by a member of a profession". It could be a standard of care or a standard of conduct. Generally the notion references negligence. According to the Free Dictionary, "Negligence is conduct that falls below the legally established standard for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm."

Consider this, then. Few doctors have a problem with malpractice. Few patients suffer from malpractice. Malpractice is hard to define. (From the perspective of the attorney, a medical mistake is equated with malpractice. Apparently the "standard of care" that the medical profession is required to meet is perfection. Accidents are a breach of the standard of the profession.) So ... why is it that medical malpractice costs some doctors more money per year than many doctors make each year? For instance, OB/GYN doctors pay up to $277,000 in insurance premiums each year in Florida. Many will tell you that the cost of malpractice insurance isn't affecting the cost of medical care. It seems impossible to conclude otherwise. Areas of the country have lost doctors who couldn't afford to keep up with the premiums. Maybe it's true that malpractice lawsuits are not driving up the cost, but since doctors can't practice without the insurance, it seems quite obvious that malpractice concerns, either from insurance or lawsuit perspectives, is certainly impacting what we, the patients, have to pay for medical care.

Medical malpractice tort reform is not likely the answer to the problem of America's health care problems. Nor is regulation of the insurance market. I'm not suggesting that. I'm simply pointing out the common problem that all angles of this question suggest: human greed. Right or wrong, doctors want to make more than the average person. To some extent, they have to just to pay for their insurance. Lawyers see opportunities to make money here and capitalize on it. The insurance companies see their opportunity to make money on the fears of doctors and patients and go for their share. And, of course, people who suffer loss because of malpractice, real or imagined, see an opportunity to make money where they never did before.

From the current perspectives of many today, the fix for this problem is to put the government in charge. Maybe they regulate the legal profession better. Maybe they regulate the insurance profession better. Maybe they regulate the cost of medical care better. Maybe they just throw tax money (tax money the government doesn't currently have but will certainly need to take) at the problem. I am firmly convinced, however, that the problem isn't fixed by the government. New laws and regulations and bureaucracy doesn't eliminate medical errors, doesn't assuage the grief and outrage of injured patients and their families, doesn't alleviate human greed. It doesn't make lawyers, insurance, or doctors more moral. It doesn't address the basic problem -- human nature.

Can we fix this problem? Some would like us to think that the government is the fix. Some would like us to believe that it's a problem of money or regulation. Some want us to conclude that it's a Christian issue. I conclude, in the end, that it is indeed a Christian issue, but not one that is passed off onto the government. The fix for this problem is not new bureacracy or changed laws. It's changed hearts ... something that only the Christ of Christianity can offer. Our part in that solution is not to withdraw from the public, but to 1) live godly lives in front of people, 2) love as Christ told us to, and 3) share the unvarnished Gospel. None of that is a government issue.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Christian Creed on Health-Care Reform

One commenter pointed to this handy Christian Creed on Health-Care Reform. I thought it was interesting (again) that we were being called to send our religious views to Washington because, apparently, all good Christians are in favor of or ought to be in favor of a government-run health care system. Again, they don't want to hear you say that marriage is between a man and a woman because religion has no place in politics, but we should be petitioning Congress with our assertion that health-care reform is a Christian value.

American politics aside, this "creed" includes biblical proofs (a little odd coming from so many supporters who affirm that the Bible is not the actual Word of God), so it ought to be addressed. Here's what they say. Here's what I see.
As one of God's children, I believe that protecting the health of each human being is a profoundly important personal and communal responsibility for people of faith.
This opening phrase has no biblical references. It's hard to find the Scripture that says or hints that "protecting the health of each human being is a profoundly important personal and communal responsibility for people of faith". But, fine, it's claimed as a belief, so let's move on.
I believe God created each person in the divine image to be spiritually and physically healthy. I feel the pain of sickness and disease in our broken world (Genesis 1:27, Romans 8:22).
Gen 1:27 affirms that we are made in God's image. Rom 8:22 says that "the whole creation groans and suffers" because of "its slavery to corruption" (Rom 8:21). Yes, indeed, humans were made in God's image -- perfect -- and the lack of perfection we see today is because of sin. But is it really God's will that everyone be spiritually and physically healthy? I have to ask since the Bible has more than one account of God sending illness on people. Seems odd to me.
I believe life and healing are core tenets of the Christian life. Christ's ministry included physical healing, and we are called to participate in God's new creation as instruments of healing and redemption (Matthew 4:23, Luke 9:1-6; Mark 7:32-35, Acts 10:38). Our nation should strive to ensure all people have access to life-giving treatments and care.
Life and healing are "core tenets" of the Christian life? The passages quoted here reference Jesus's healing of many people. Yes, indeed, Jesus healed. Several references tell us why: these were intended as "signs", proof that He had come from God. (John's gospel, for instance, never uses the word "miracle", but instead calls them "signs" over and over.) And, in fact, one reference is to the disciples healing as well. What's interesting is the claim that it's now up to us, our science, and our government. I understand that Jesus healed as a sign of being a genuine messenger of God, but how does that translate into either us as participants "as instruments of healing" or any such command to our government?
I believe, as taught by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, that the measure of a society is seen in how it treats the most vulnerable. The current discussion about health-care reform is important for the United States to move toward a more just system of providing care to all people (Isaiah 1:16-17, Jeremiah 7:5-7, Matthew 25:31-45).
Jesus referenced little children, to be sure. And society should take care of its most vulnerable. (It seems somewhat hypocritical to argue for protection of the most vulnerable while supporting a woman's right to kill the most vulnerable people on the planet. Where is that in this creed?) But is "society" equivalent to "government"? In earlier times in our country, the Church was the caretaker of the needy. It has slipped from that role, thanks in part to failure of the Church and in another part because the government having assumed the task. But the problem is this: The commands of Scripture (like the ones referenced in these verses) are to individuals, not to the U.S. government. And wouldn't this be a repeat of the problem? We are commanded to do it ... so let's hand it over to the government. Bottom line, one of the "core tenets" of Christianity is individual responsibility. So ... when did it become the government's job?
I believe that all people have a moral obligation to tell the truth. To serve the common good of our entire nation, all parties debating reform should tell the truth and refrain from distorting facts or using fear-based messaging (Leviticus 19:11; Ephesians 4:14-15, 25; Proverbs 6:16-19).
Do we need biblical references to tell us to tell the truth? No, of course not. Is it only those who question the current health-care reform plans that distort facts or use fear-based messaging? No, of course not. So ...?
I believe that Christians should seek to bring health and well-being (shalom) to the society into which God has placed us, for a healthy society benefits all members (Jeremiah 29:7).
That reference from Jeremiah is interesting. God commands His people "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you." Such good advice. So the Christian approach would be to tell the government "... so ... you do it!" No, the command is to God's people.
I believe in a time when all will live long and healthy lives, from infancy to old age (Isaiah 65:20), and "mourning and crying and pain will be no more" (Revelation 21:4). My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters who watch their loved ones suffer, or who suffer themselves, because they cannot afford a trip to the doctor. I stand with them in their suffering.
There will indeed (for Christians) be a time when there is no more death and no more sorrow ... but that's not in our lifetime. No amount of government intervention is going to bring that about. If the claim is that this is a "Christian creed" that such a thing will occur as a result of a proper government health care plan, there could be nothing further from the truth.
I believe health-care reform must rest on a foundation of values that affirm each and every life as a sacred gift from the Creator (Genesis 2:7).
Gen 2:7 tells us that life is a gift from God. True. The conclusion, then, is that it is a God-given entitlement for all humans to have proper health care ... right? Odd thing, that. No one has ever at any time in all of history come to such a conclusion. When did this suddenly become a God-given right?

Look, there is some truth to what this "creed" (seriously, it's not anything that resembles a "creed") says. We ought to care. We ought to be doing something. We ought to be taking care of people. We ought to be giving to needs. Don't hear me say something different than that. What I don't see is anything in my Bible that suggests that it's the job of the government to do these things. These are all commands to people, not States. So ... in what sense is it "Christian" to petition the government to do what Christians are commanded as individuals and as a group to do?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Psalm 20

1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! 2 May He send you help from the sanctuary And support you from Zion! 3 May He remember all your meal offerings And find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah. 4 May He grant you your heart's desire And fulfill all your counsel! 5 We will sing for joy over your victory, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions. 6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. 7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. 8 They have bowed down and fallen, But we have risen and stood upright. 9 Save, O LORD; May the King answer us in the day we call (Psa 20:1-9).
Nothing more for me to add ...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Women at War

Back in Desert Storm days (early 90's) the debate was actually pretty heavy. Should we allow women in combat? Americans were staunchly against it. We didn't mind if they served. They had lots of good roles in the military. We just didn't like the idea of putting women directly and intentionally in harm's way. Shouldn't happen.

Times, of course, have changed. I argued before that one of the key goals of certain groups these days was a gender-neutral world. Men and women were not to be regarded as "different". Everyone is the same. The ramifications are quiet at first but staggering when you start counting them up. Nonetheless, it appears that these groups are making headway because more recent studies suggest that now, not even 20 years later, more than 50% of Americans are perfectly fine with putting women in actual combat.

That's right. An apparent majority of Americans think that the right thing to do is have women fight (shoot, kill, die) side by side with men in one of the most horrendous things in which humans engage -- war. Touted as "girl power", several stories are surfacing about how we're perfectly okay sending women to fight our wars. The New York Times headline reads "G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier". It tells how the military is circumventing its own rules on the subject to put women into actual combat. An article from discusses the changes in attitudes for women in combat. An entry from World Politics Review references an Army War College article that concludes "judging by performance-based criteria, there is no objective justification for keeping women out of combat roles."

We who think that there is a difference between men and women are typically painted as "sexist" these days. We who open doors for women at the mall have found ourselves insulted as "demeaning women". We who think that God intended for men and women to be complementary rather than equal in every way are, today, mostly in the wrong. The real way to value women, the real way to support females, the real way to show that we're all of equal value is to take the women in our society and put them on the battlefield next to the men. Let them be shot at, blown up, dismembered just like the men we mourn. Let them kill and suffer the trauma of battle just like the men we applaud. Instead of keeping them from such horrors, let's have them take part. Rather than representing all that is good in humans beings, let's honor them by having them participate in the worst of human beings. Yeah, that makes sense. At least ... it does to a majority these days. Me? Like so many things these days, I'm not getting it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Can't Buy Love

One thing we know for certain ... in the immortal words of the Beetles, "Money can't buy me love." Given. We're all agreed. Good.

But ... what else can't money buy? To look around today I would have to assume ... nearly nothing. Think about it. Is there a problem under the sun that can't be fixed with money? If there is, I don't know what it is.

According to NationMaster, the U.S. is 37th in spending on education. (Cuba is #1.) We're somewhere below Kenya and Slovenia and somewhere above Canada and Spain. Over and over we hear recently of education funding cuts due to state budget crises. Class sizes are climbing and it's hard for kids to get computers and kids don't seem very motivated to get educated. What will we do? Well, if you want to fix these problems, it's simple. The government needs to put more money towards education. Everyone knows that. How could you question it?

When the government finally recognized that the economy seemed to be in trouble, the answer was simple. Throw money at it. Whatever you do, don't let banks go under. Car companies in trouble? By all means, we can't let them fail. And they're still throwing money at the economy problem with the $800 billion "stimulus bill" and $3 billion on the "cash for clunkers" program. Who knows if these original measures will be enough? All we know is that throwing money at this problem ought to fix it.

One that is particularly disturbing to me is the whole problem of curing cancer or Alzheimer's. These are genuine problems. What to do? What to do? I know ... throw money at it! You see, if you throw enough money at it, science will be able to find things they haven't yet found simply for the lack of funds and everything will be cured. Donate now! With enough money, I guess, science can learn anything and solve everything.

And, of course, because the cost of living is too high, it is clearly necessary to raise the minimum wage because more money will fix that problem.

It seems there is very little that we won't raise funds for. There is a website for raising money for poor defenseless women who need breast augmentation for their self-esteem. (If you thought that link took you to the website, you don't know me very well.) Or how about this anti-drunk driving fundraiser where "tickets are $20 and include one drink with the admission price"? That's right ... the fundraiser for ending drunk driving was held in the Blue Martini Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Seriously. Is there anything that money can't fix?

So ... if I suggest that a major problem with our educational system is that parents aren't parenting and kids aren't being disciplined, I would guess that enough money could fix that. (You see, a class full of, say, 35 well-behaved kids who are also learning at home is much easier to manage than today's classes of 20 wild kids with no learning outside those four walls.) If I thought that greed and self-centeredness was the primary cause of our nation's economic woes, I suppose we could start a fundraiser to fix that problem, right? And so it goes.

You see, I think that most of the problems we face today are problems with people, not finances. I understand that it takes money to do research, and I'm not saying we shouldn't support cancer research and all. Nor do I think that education should have its funds stripped away. I just think that we are all hinging way too much of our hopes on "sufficient funds" as if money is the answer to the problems that people have caused. Until people are fixed, it's my conviction that the cost of fixing problems will continue to rise while the problems don't go away.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Christian Opinion

Maybe you've heard this one recently. I have, and from several sources. "If you call yourself a Christian, you should be in favor of the President's health care reform!" The idea is that, in some sense, the President's approach to the question is much more "Christian" than the current approach.

This idea is baffling to me. Apparently, it is "Christian" for a government to tax its constituents -- especially, it seems, its wealthier constituents -- to pay for the health care of other constituents. It is a "Christian value" that governments are required (although at no time ever in the history of Earth or Christianity has it ever been the case) to provide health care for people. Despite the total absence in Scripture of anything that would suggest that the government needs to do this, it is "Christian" to support universal health care and "un-Christian" to support any other option. I don't get it.

Most baffling to me is that we ought to provide an answer in this case that we are forbidden to provide in any other ... a religious one. We are castigated for saying, "The Bible regards homosexual behavior as sin", but we ought (as in "morally obligated") to say, "The Bible requires that we should have the government provide health care." (Feel free to substitute "my religion" for "the Bible" in the phrases above.) So it's a kind of "The Christian ethic is allowed to play a part in the public debate when it favors our view, but not when it doesn't."

Yeah ... I don't get that at all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Biblical Issue

Recently I wrote an entry that spoke of "biblical inerrancy" as an "essential doctrine", a basic belief necessary for the integrity of Christianity (as opposed to a belief necessary for salvation). I followed that with a post on Biblical Inerrancy itself -- is it logical and is it biblical? Of course, that whole concept is under fire these days. Skeptics even within the general heading of "Christianity" are pretty sure that the Bible we have is not inerrant. These assumptions vary in intensity. Some say, "The Bible is wholly reliable ... but, of course, we don't really know how to read it these days." Others are quite sure that what we have is wholly unreliable. There are, surely, pieces of truth in there, but figuring out which is which is a puzzle that, ultimately, can't be solved. Bottom line ... the Bible isn't as reliable as those who hold to inerrancy might think.

It begs the question. The entire Mormon Church and a vast array of varying and large groups say that biblical inerrancy is not true and not important. I said it was "essential". So how important is it really? Is there any reason for me to call it "essential"? Here's my reasoning.

The argument is derived largely from the position that says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." That, of course, isn't a mere "position". It's a biblical claim. The logical conclusion is that if God exhaled it, it would be right. Evidence would include things like answered prophecy, the signs performed by genuine spokesmen for God, the internal consistency of a document written by multiple authors over a thousand years, that sort of thing. It is at this point that we discover the importance as well. How reliable ... is God?

How important is an inerrant Bible? As it turns out, the Bible is the source document for Christian doctrine. There are other sources available, but none with the same weight. Some may value Augustine's writings or Calvin or Luther or the word of the Pope, not to mention an innumerable pile of currently popular voices, but these are subjective. If the Bible is not the primary, reliable source, these all become a matter of opinion. "I like this one." "I like the other." "I think for myself." Without an inerrant Bible, then, we have an errant source document. Christianity itself becomes, frankly, a matter of opinion. You don't like the story of the Flood? Fine, maybe it didn't happen. You think that Christians should be handling deadly snakes? Sure, why not? It doesn't really matter because we can't really know. Historic orthodoxy is irrelevant. The ruling source becomes ... whatever you want to believe.

How important, then, is an inerrant Bible? Apart from the arguments (for or against), the question isn't merely, "Do we have an inerrant Bible?" Despite the accusations that we can't trust the Bible, that it's all "man-made", that we can't really know anything, the question isn't small. If we don't have a source document we can trust, we don't have doctrine we can trust. There is no possibility of unity. Christianity becomes a subjective set of beliefs. Without a reliable Bible, we are pretty much on our own. As a matter of fact, we might as well stop the arguing. There's no way to know anything or to argue anything. It's over, folks.

(Side Note: As a related but coincidental item, here is an interesting piece on where we got our Bible and is it changed?)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Politics as Usual

The word, "politics", has a variety of meanings, but when we use it today, we generally think of the activities or affairs engaged in by a government, politician, or political party. When we hear phrases like "politics as usual", we are actually narrowing this down to a political party. So "politics as usual" means "you're voicing the opinion of your political party, not your own particular concerns".

"Politics as usual." "Scare tactics." "No legitimate concerns." These are the phrases that are being thrown out by the president, by democrats, and by the mainstream media when Americans voice their concerns regarding the entire question of a public health care option. You see, it can only be "politics" -- the opinion of a political party, not individuals -- because ... well, I don't know why. But what we're told is that if you disagree with the government's plan, just shut up. If you do voice a concern, it's not a genuine concern. President Obama and the democrats don't want to hear it. Nancy Pelosi said, "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves." The President said, "I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking."

When the President told an audience in New Hampshire that his health care reform was similar to the U.S. Postal Service, we got a glimpse of the problem. We just heard that the Post Office is looking at a $7 billion loss this year and considering closing something like a thousand post offices. But the President assures us that he wants to provide a "deficit neutral" plan. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this new health care plan will cost more than $1 trillion. The government will get the money from ... well, you do the math because I can't. If the USPS can't support itself in the open market, where will the government get the money without adding to our deficit or taking more money out of our pockets?

Our health care system is not good, they tell us. The World Health Organization rates us 37th, below most European plans and even Canada. The fact that many Canadians come to the U.S. for health care didn't seem to factor into the equation, I guess. France, they said, was number one. Of course, in France the government sets the price. And the French aren't nearly as enamored with their system as the World Health Organization. Besides, there is no doubt that France is a socialist country (one of the major concerns voiced by opponents of the President's plan).

So now we have ... concerns. There are voices worried about socialism in America. There are people that are worried about decline of the quality of care. Some are pretty sure that we're looking at a sharp increase in the deficit. And there are lots of questions about the truthfulness of what Washington is telling us. There are lots of things to think about, lots of things to question, lots of things that are at issue here. The odd thing is that none of them seem to be a matter of "Republicans versus Democrats". It doesn't really look like "politics as usual" to me ... unless, by "politics as usual", you mean "a particular political group attempting to gain more control over the people". But in this case that wouldn't be those voicing their concerns, would it?

Monday, August 17, 2009


Something I think we all know to be true is this: No two people are alike. There is always something that differentiates. We know from science that DNA is almost never identical, and that fingerprints are different. There are personality traits, physical anomalies, and so on. We may range from "amazingly similar" to "completely opposite", but we never arrive at "totally and completely the same". We know this to be true.

Why is it, then, that we don't seem to know this to be true? Why do I ask? Go to any bookstore and look at the "self-help" section. From ADD to Yoga, from marriage to divorce, from bed wetting to thumb sucking to sleeplessness, from sexual addiction to sexual apathy, from weight loss to "how to get those six-pack abs", from "how to get rich" to "how to spend wisely" there is a seemingly endless variety of instruction manuals to tell you how to make yourself better. The suggestion is that these manuals will work ... for anybody. But, wait ... haven't we just agreed that no two people are alike? So why would we think that these approaches will work for anybody? But we do.

I've always been irritated by weight loss ads that assure us that their product guarantees weight loss. "We have a special ingredient," they promise, "that stops hunger!" But ... what if hunger isn't the problem? Personally I can't remember a single time when I've actually eaten because hunger drove me to it. Confession time: I'm overweight. It's not that I want to be. It's not that I don't do anything about it. It's that no one seems to be able to find a solution. "Oh," one dear relative assured me, "the only reason anyone is ever overweight is because they eat too much." Yeah? Well I cut my intake in half, eliminated sugar, fatty foods, and all that bad stuff, and tripled my exercise. No sweets, no sugared sodas, none of that bad stuff. The result? Not an ounce of cure. My current diet puts my intake at less than a 1000 calories a day and it has made no difference. You see, while hunger is the problem for some, even many, it isn't for me. While overeating is the problem for some, even many, it isn't for me. Even my doctor is stumped. So keep your "how to lose 50 pounds of ugly fat" book to yourself because right now it seems the only way for me to do that is to cut off my head.

I'm not looking for a solution here. I'm simply pointing out that no two of us are alike. Did you know that some people are overweight for reasons other than what they eat? Did you know that some people smoke not because they're addicted? Did you know that not all guys think of sex a hundred times a day? Did you know that not all women hate (or love) sex (depending on your stereotype)? We are individuals. A "12-step program" (for whatever you wish to discuss) may work for some, but no program is 100% effective. Science and psychology and even your pastor may be good at helping some people through some things, but no one is always effective.

Look, I know that stereotypes can be effective tools. "Lots of this type of people are like that." It helps categorize. Fine. But my point is that it can also be dangerous. Assuming that "all of that denomination is good" is just as bad as assuming "all of this other one is bad". We need to be careful about pigeon-holing people. What, then, is my real point? What I'm really leading to here is that if we want to be effective in our relationships and life, it requires individual attention. We would like, I know, to lump these people in that category and blow them off and those people in this category and congregate with them. It works okay to a small extent. But what is demanded is "love your neighbor as yourself", and that is an individual, one-on-one, time-consuming, self-involving process. We need to take the time to get to know the people we work with as individuals rather than stereotypes. We need to work at getting to know the people we go to church with as individuals rather than stereotypes. We need to care enough to get to know family members as individuals rather than stereotypes. Yes, we even assume that our spouse or our children or our siblings fall in well-kept categories. But remember, we're all individuals. No two people are alike. I think our work is cut out for us. So ...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Heavens and God's Glory

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork (Psa 19:1).

This last week we had the pleasure of the Perseid meteor shower. It's our annual opportunity to watch a beautiful display of meteors hitting our atmosphere ... and burning up. You see, our "heavens", the immediate layer of atmosphere around our planet provides amazing protection from the vast debris that is hurtling through space. A piece of space-sand, for instance, sounds harmless enough, but at the speeds it is traveling, a small piece like that could kill you. We don't, of course, see that happening because the planet has an atmosphere. That atmosphere destroys all but the biggest of these space rocks. And we are kept safe.

You see, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. And every so often we get some fun reminders of this.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What won't sex sell?

We all know how advertising works. Sex sells. "Buy our car. It'll get you women." "Try our aftershave. You'll have to fight the ladies off." And so it goes. Get your hair colored if you're gray, or get it styled if you're not. Wear clothes from this store. Buy just about any product at all because it will make you irresistible to women. One wonders if there are limits.

In the last week of 2008, the Valley of the Sun opened its light rail system. Okay, it's not much. It goes through downtown and maybe a quarter of the way into both the east and west valleys. Still, it is mass transit. I rode it when it opened. Sure, it was an hour and a half commute for what used to be an hour's drive, but I was doing my part. It saved gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, that sort of thing. And it dropped me off within walking distance of work. So I rode it. At the end of May my place of work moved. What was an hour and a half would have become a two and a half hour commute ... minimum. No, five hours commuting on top of the 9-10 hour work day wasn't acceptable. So I'm driving again.

Now the light rail has started a new ad campaign. The TV commercial starts with a debonair young man walking down the sidewalk, greeting all the ladies with a suave smile. At one point he pulls a flower from his coat and hands it to a passing beauty. A couple of lovely young ladies are enthralled, following a little behind ... until he gets to his ride. It's a full-sized SUV. If they had dumped a truckload of cow manure on the fellow, it would have explained the look of disgust on the ladies' faces. But the announcer had another explanation. "Do your part for the environment," he told us. "Ride the light rail." And the two young girls mobbed another fellow getting ready to get on the train.

You see, if you do your part for the environment, it makes you irresistible to the opposite sex. Everyone knows that. How could you doubt it?

My wife looked at me quizzically and I reassured her, "In the whole time I was riding the train I never had a single time when pretty young things gushed at me about how sexy I was for working to save the planet."

Are there limits? Apparently not. The question for me is how much cow manure are we willing to buy about what makes someone irresistible to the opposite sex? Are there limits? I think not.

Friday, August 14, 2009


And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt 28:18-20).
Yeah, yeah, we're all familiar with that. We're good to go. Thanks so much. Bye. But, wait! Are we as familiar with it as we think?

The command begins "Go therefore". The "therefore" references the prior statement: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." It isn't a light command. It isn't a suggestion. It is a command from the Almighty. That ought to give it the necessary weight.

The command begins with "Go" or "As you are going". The idea is wherever you go ... do this. And now the meat. What is "this"?

The command is clear: Make disciples. There is no ambiguity. There is no question. It doesn't say "Make converts." It doesn't say, "Bring souls to Christ." Now, obviously making disciples begins with the Gospel. Evangelism would be the necessary starting point here. However, most people end at the beginning. It's as if we were commanded, "Run the marathon." We take five steps and then stop. "Whew! Did that. Now what?" No, no. You just took the first steps. This is a marathon.

Look, Christians. (I emphasize "Christians" because we consider ourselves "followers of Christ". Since this is a clear command from our Lord, there should be no question about what we ought to do.) The command is "Make disciples." Jesus is quite clear on what that entails. It includes "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" and "baptizing them". Now, some of you may have some concerns about whether or not any one of us can baptize, so I'll leave that up to you. Either do it yourself, or make sure it's done, but don't miss it. My main concern, however, isn't the baptizing question. My main concern is this: Are we making disciples?

Let's see what the requirements were. Hmm ... well, I'm sure there's some maturity requirement, right? Or maybe something about "You have to be an elder or a deacon or a minister or something" ... right? No. And why is that? Well, Jesus answers that question, as well. "I am with you always." You see, He's not relying on "mature Christians" or "eminent Apostles" or the like to carry out this command. He's relying on each of us to do it because He is with each of us.

Okay, so now what? There are, as it turns out, loads of resources available for discipleship. There are websites and books and study materials and programs. Since I don't see "Go, therefore, to and download their latest material" in the command, I won't go there. Feel free to find this stuff if you wish, but realize it's not commanded. What is? It is commanded that you learn (preferably from working through Scripture with someone else) all that we are taught and you pass that on to someone else. If we use Jesus's example as "make disciples", it is a kind of "walk alongside" sort of thing. We share what we know. We support. We rebuke. We live there.

This kind of thing can take place just about anywhere. Remember, it is "go" or "as you are going". Husbands, are you discipling your wives? Parents, are you discipling your kids? Employees can disciple employees. Church members can disciple church members. Neighbors can disciple neighbors. Where are you going? Wherever that is, it should include the concept of coming alongside someone and putting some of your life into theirs. It starts with the Gospel. It continues with "all that I have commanded you." It is an investment of yourself in their lives.

"Oh, my," you're likely thinking, "that's a lot of time and work." Yes, it is. That's why I started with the source of the command ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Modern Day Prophets

There have been discussions around here of late that went something like this: "If God ordered you to do something that I consider horrendous, would you do it?" The question is usually offered a little differently. Is the one telling me to do it a representative of God, or do I hear God's voice, or ... well, how do you know?

I'm reading these days in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. It is interesting to me the manner in which Paul addresses these saints. He doesn't address them just as their friend. He doesn't address them only as their pastor. He addresses them as their representative from God. In his first epistle he defends his Apostleship. In the second, he says, "I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works" (2 Cor 12:11-12). Paul doesn't have the slightest problem representing himself as a direct, special messenger from God.

I don't think we have these anymore. Paul references himself as "last of all" the Apostles (1 Cor 15:8). The role of Apostle/prophet in this case had specific qualifications which included being eyewitnesses to Christ and His resurrection. The Bible says that the Church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Eph 2:20). If there are more apostles and prophets (of this type), then the foundation is continuing to be laid. (Makes no sense.)

I believe there are still "apostles" and "prophets", but not of the category of Samuel or Moses or Paul. There are still messengers ("apostles") who speak truly to us about God's Word and still those who rightly express God's Word ("prophets"), but nothing at all in the category of those Old Testament prophets. The last prophet of that category was Christ. Now we have the Word of God to know what God says.

So I don't think we have anything that approximates what Paul or Peter or Moses was -- a mouthpiece for God. We have the Word, sure. And it is sufficient, I have no doubt. But I don't think we have anymore spokespersons for God who can say, apart from Scripture, "thus saith the Lord" and be a genuine representative of God. To me, then, the question is moot. "If God ordered ..." is then, not now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Okay, nothing heavy or controversial today. Nothing to fight over. Just a thought.

My sister noted that sometimes in my correspondence with her I refer to her husband as "your husband" and sometimes by name. She mentioned that her husband had said the same thing in my correspondence with him ("your wife" rather than her name). She just wondered why.

We like to think that names are just ... names. They're tags that simply let us know one person from another or one thing from another. I don't think that's the case. Using my sister's example, I can refer to her husband by name or by his relationship with my sister or by several other things. He could be "the father of your children" or "the son of your in-laws" or even "your brother in Christ". I'm sure there are many more. I think, however, that each tag carries a slightly different connotation. And I don't think it's insignificant.

Let's try it with an example where privacy won't be an issue. (Telling you my sister's name or my brother-in-law's name may be a violation of their privacy, don't you know?) Think, for a moment, about God. We may refer to Him as "God". We may refer to Him as "the Father". There is a whole host of names in the Old Testament. He is El Shaddai -- the All-Sufficient One. He is YHWH, the covenant name with Israel. He is El Roi -- the God who Sees. There are many names associated with YHWH -- Jehovah -- such as Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide, and Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord who Heals, and Jehovah-Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. Each name refers to the same entity -- God -- but each name carries a different sense.

In earlier times and even today in some cultures names mean something. They are more than tags. The tag we choose to put on someone, be it a title or a formal name or an epithet, expresses more than merely the person. It calls to mind something about that person to which you wish to call attention. Calling him "your husband" rather than by name would remind my sister he's that man to whom you're married, the covenanted fellow in your life, your family by God's work, the one you are one with in ways like no other. Calling him other terms would carry different connotations.

We like to think that names are just names. They're much more. The tags we choose to indicate those people, places, and things to which we are referring will usually say a lot more about what we're thinking in that regard than we realize. I suppose we just have to listen to each other to catch that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Liberal or Conservative

You can't examine politics or religion without hearing the terms "conservative" and "liberal". Oh, and we're all sure what they mean. They mean "that other side from us who are totally rotten and mean and completely out of touch". Odd, isn't it, seeing that the definition fits both sides? But, seriously, I suspect that the two terms (as they are employed in politics and religion) have lost their meanings. Words without clear definition simply lead to confusion when two people use them, thinking that the other is working off the same intent ... and they're not. Let's see if I can offer a clear definition so that, whatever you mean by it, you'll know what I'm intending.

First, it is necessary to ask, "Where are we?" It is humorous to me that Canada uses "Conservative" to reference those who are part of the Progressive Conservative Party. It's funny to me simply because, in my use of terms,"progressive" and "conservative" are contradictory. The U.K. also has a political party called the Conservative Party. In the U.S., it is commonly believed that the Democrats are "liberals" and the Republicans are "conservatives". However, many conservatives have left ... no, jettisoned the Republican Party because, well, it isn't very conservative. So, depending on where you are, when I reference "conservative" and "liberal" I am not reference a political party.

So, what do these terms mean? (Remember, I'm defining them for my use, so most accurately I'm referencing what they mean to me.) The dictionary defines "conservative" as "favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change." That is precisely how I understand "conservative". Here's the idea. In politics and in Christianity, the earlier views tend to be the better views. Therefore, the intent is to conserve those earlier views, ideals, and values, not to leave them.

Now, "liberal" is generally viewed as the opposite of "conservative" (in politics and religion ... not in other uses). Context, then, determines the meaning of "liberal". If you say, "He gave liberally", you are not saying, "He gave from a mindset opposite of conservatism", but that he gave with generosity. And therein lies part of the problem. I looked up the word in the dictionary and found 13 definitions. The primary thought (in the terms we are considering) is that of "progress or reform". (You can see how that is the opposite of "conserve".) Of course, some of the definitions are misleading in the context we're speaking about. For instance, one definition is "permitting freedom of action" or "in accord with the concepts of maximum individual freedom". I would hope that you can see that "favoring traditional values" would not preclude "permitting freedom of action". Another is "open-minded or tolerant". Again, "favoring traditional values" does not require "close-minded". It's entirely possible that a conservative (of the type we're examining) has openly examined all the options and concluded that traditional values are better than new ones. The most often misused definition is "generous". We all know that definition. To give "liberally" is to give generously. This is not, however, related in any way to the ideas at hand. (One of my sons had a teacher who tried to tell him this was the case. "Liberals want to help people, but conservatives just want to keep it for themselves." It's simply a lie based on the wrong definition of the term due to the context.) Here, look at it this way. In the world of religion and politics, "liberal" and "conservative" are opposites. However, in the world of charity, "liberal" and "stingy" would be opposites. Different definition from a different context.

Perhaps you can now begin to see the need to define terms. It is a very easy thing to use the wrong definition for one term as a weapon against the other. "Oh, so you don't want to allow freedom??" "I see; you aren't very generous, then, eh?" These are evidences of two people separated by the same language. It's good to use common terms for communication, but it is essential that we are defining our common terms commonly.

So ... what is a "conservative" Christian? This Christian sees the continuum of Christendom as a single system of theology, doctrine, and living that is based on the Bible, focused on the God of the Bible, and intended to make followers of the Christ of the Bible. As such, the notion of "liberal" in the sense of "progressive" or "reform" doesn't really make sense at all. If the historical, orthodox Christianity needs to progress, it was apparently started by a short-sighted God and His errant Son. The whole idea of "reform" in the Reformation was not "progress", but a return to the original ... the ultimate in conservative thinking. "We've strayed from the original values and views and need to return to them." It would seem, given the biblical view of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, that "liberal Christianity" would be an oxymoron. Except for peripherals (like how your church is decorated or the music form you assume), it would seem contradictory to aim for a Christianity that changes from its roots. That would seem to be a contradiction of the nature of God and an indictment of the abilities of the Holy Spirit.

As for "liberal" or "conservative" politics, you're on your own. I do know that there is no longer a "conservative" party in America. Whether or not that's a good thing is certainly based on your view (positive or negative) of political conservatives. But I'm not going to debate that one here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Separation of ...

When the politicians went back to their constituents to try to explain the new health care plan they were forging, there was pandemonium. Voters were angry. The politician response was that the complaints were choreographed. It was a prearranged complaint. Republicans were playing politics.

It's not the first time the complaint has been floated. The President assured us that the reason Republicans in Congress were against some of his plans was ... politics. They weren't, apparently, opposed in principle. It was politics.

It makes me wonder. The U.S. Supreme Court has used the phrase "the separation of church and state" more than 25 times since 1878. The idea is predicated on the First Amendment. The First Amendment, however, doesn't actually include the phrase. Instead, the amendment addresses two things: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The amendment prohibits establishing a state religion or preventing the free exercise of one's beliefs. Nothing in the prohibitions of the First Amendment require that there must be a separation of church and state. But by 1947 it was viewed as the law of the land. And reason began to be excluded from politics. When, in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that, on the basis of privacy, a woman had the right to kill her unborn baby, the removal of reason from politics was complete.

Next it was religion. Bolstered by the separation of church and state, politicians and more set out to remove religion from politics. People bought the idea in principle, but actually separating religion from politics was a real problem. For instance, trying to figure out the basis for law without including religion is a near impossibility. Remove a Lawgiver, and "law" becomes a simple matter of opinion. Besides, the majority of folks in America are religious. Most people understand that religion isn't just a private matter. It's a part of one's life. In 2000, a survey suggested that people had become ambivalent about religion in politics. We appear to be equally divided on whether or not there should be a separation of church and state. Still, after decades of work, it has become nearly an axiom that religion should be done in private, not in public. And we've nearly achieved the removal of religion from politics.

So what's next? Well, having bypassed reason and jettisoned religion, it appears that the next requirement is that politics be removed from politics. Politicians don't want a grassroots movement to counter their opinions. They don't want an organized movement to counter their opinions. Politics has no place in politics. Wait ...

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:3-4).
According to Paul, at least one of the reasons that we go through hard times is so that we can then be able to comfort others who go through something similar using the comfort we received from God. Cool, huh?

Are you suffering some difficulties? Seek out a brother or sister who has had the same experiences and allow the wisdom and comfort that God gave them benefit you. Have you been through some difficulties? Don't keep that to yourself. Sometimes we want to "cover up" hardships. Maybe we want to just appear brave or "above it all" or just don't want to bother people with it. Well, I would guess that there is one (more than one) person out there dying for the comfort that you can offer because you've been there.

Now, note this. In neither case -- suffering or having been through suffering -- is it recommended to be silent. Instead, we are commanded to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal 6:2). We can't bear one another's burdens if we don't share them. Times are tough. Let's do that.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Child Safety

Child safety products ... it's a huge industry. There are safety gates to prevent children from going places. They are even self-closing so you don't have to think about it. There are baby monitors, complete with audio and video, so you can watch your baby in the crib. In fact, there are some that are Internet versions so you can watch your child while you're not there. The original concept of the baby monitor was based on SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a frightening thought for most parents, so the idea was that if there was no sound, they could rush in and ... well, do something. Of course, there is a problem with that. It isn't called "sudden" for no reason. And, truth be told, "no sound" is fairly common when a baby is sleeping safely and soundly.

You can get safety shields to protect your electronics from baby's hands and safety straps to prevent the child from pulling heavy things on top of him or her. You can get rubber bumpers for every corner of the room, from furniture to doorways. At my house (I have no children at home) it was mandatory that they install window locks on all the windows at the back of the house so that children couldn't slide the windows open and climb out to the pool. You know, of course, that you simply must have those little plastic plugs in the outlets to prevent children from sticking things in there. And what home is complete without a toilet lock? And did you know that you can buy your child a watch or a back pack with built in GPS equipment so you can locate them anytime?

Surely you aren't one of those uncaring parents that doesn't use anti-bacterial cleaners for everything that your family might touch, are you? Germs, you see (or don't see), are a big problem. You really ought to be carrying a Gummi Grip if you take your child to the grocery store. It's anti-microbial, germ-free, and soft so your child can chew while you shop. You have to keep those babies free from germs, you know. (I won't bother to tell you that anti-bacterial devices don't have any effect on viruses, the more common problem among children.)

Two facts come to mind when I consider all of this. First, how did anyone survive, say, 50 years ago when none of these safety devices even existed? Kids didn't have door locks, electrical caps, monitors, window guards, or anti-bacterial soaps. How did a single child make it out of adolescence? But that's just a question from experience. The other fact is that science tells us some interesting things regarding kids today. Science tells us that they're worse off than they were before. What?! How can that be??

Well, according to the latest studies, problems like ADHD and childhood obesity are skyrocketing. One Harvard report said that we ought to expect young adults to be spending much more for health care because their health is much worse than it used to be. For instance, in 1960, less than 2% of U.S. children and adolescents were reported to have a chronic health problems that limited their activities. By 2004, that number was at 7%. In 1974, 5% of children were obese. Today it's at 18% and climbing. Asthma rates have doubled since the 80's. ADHD was unknown in 1968, but now it's diagnosed in something like 6% of kids.

All of this ought to be stunning. I mean, haven't we really achieved child safety with all our fantastic devices? Well, no. It appears that the culprits for these things are not the stove or the electrical socket. It turns out that the dangers lie in computer games, fast-food diets, watching TV, and a lack of family and community. Seriously! Obesity, ADHD, asthma, diabetes, all these and more are chalked up to our most popular methods of raising our children -- set them in front of a video and let them be.

It makes me wonder. First, when do today's kids get to learn about the real world? The real world is trial and error, success and failure, "in sickness and in health". It includes getting dirty and allowing sufficient risk not to maim or kill, but enough to learn. It includes enough bacteria that their little immune systems learn early how to handle all sorts of situations. On the other hand, it makes me wonder about what we call "parenting" today. We think of "good parents" as the ones with the rubber baby bumpers on the doors and the electrical plug blocks and the Gummi Grips to keep that poor little one safe. These "good parents" are using their televisions and computers to "teach" and babysit. Those lousy parents are using archaic methods such as books and spending actual time with their children. They make their kids play outside and cut them off from much-needed television interaction. It makes me wonder about child safety and where it really lies.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Biblical Inerrancy

On my blog of late there have been conversations about biblical inerrancy. Is it a valid doctrine? Is it rational? Is it ... biblical? That last one seems a little bit funny to me. Here's the basic line of reasoning: "The Bible never says it is inerrant." The problem is that those who use this argument don't see the problem. If the primary argument that the Bible is inerrant was based on the Bible's own statement that it was inerrant, we'd have a a classic logical fallacy: Circular reasoning. "The Bible says it's inerrant. The Bible, being inerrant, cannot be wrong. Therefore, the Bible is inerrant!" Wrong. Sorry, but that's nonsense.

Does the Bible claim to be the Word of God? Absolutely! It only takes a basic search engine a brief moment to discover the phrase "Thus saith the Lord" thousands of times in the Bible. That's a claim to being God's Word. Then there's that whole "God-breathed" thing (so often minimized incorrectly as "inspired"). And if it is God's Word, can God err? Of course not. Still, to make the argument from this that the Bible is inerrant would be circular. It's helpful to the believer, but not as a valid argument for someone who does not believe.

There are other popular arguments that we like, but just don't cut the mustard, so to speak. We like the one that says "The Spirit testifies that it's the Word of God." It is a true statement, but, again, not a valid argument. Others have testified, "The Spirit told me ..." with the part that follows being downright heresy. Shall we believe them, also? And there is the popular argument that believers offer that "It is the Word of God because it speaks truth to me." This may be a true statement and is nice confirmation to a believer, but, again, it's not a valid argument for someone who does not believe for a reason similar to the previous argument. If the Quran "speaks truth to me", have I validated it as God's Word? Still another argument is "the Church says so." It is a true statement. Orthodox Christianity has always held that God does not err and, therefore, His Word is inerrant. But you can see the same problem here, can't you? "The Church" says that the Pope is infallible. Oh, wait, no, we don't all buy that. Great! Now what? See? These types of things are true and are good as confirmation for those who believe, but not valid arguments. Comforting, but not convincing.

Is there an argument, preferably a biblical one, that would demonstrate inerrancy without relying on a biblical claim to inerrancy? Yes, there is. The argument would go something like this. If you have a messenger from God who declares the Bible to be God's Word, then that would be evidence that it is God's Word. Of course, how do you determine the authenticity of such a messenger? Well, according to Scripture, that was the primary function of miracles. If you recall, Nicodemus said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him" (John 3:2). In fact, throughout John's Gospel he liked to use the word "signs" when others wrote "miracles" because that was the purpose. If a person showed up on the scene with abilities that humans didn't have -- only God would have -- then they must be a genuine messenger from God.

So, do we have a candidate? Yes! Jesus was a verified "teacher come from God". He taught that the Scripture "cannot be broken" (John 10:35). In fact, He said, "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law ..." (Matt 5:18). The wording He liked to repeat was "It is written" to demonstrate that what He was saying was absolutely true and authoritative. Of course, that was the Old Testament. He also promised the Spirit who would lead His disciples into all truth. So it is that Peter, speaking of Paul's work, ranks it with "the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Now we have confirmation from God's authentic messenger, Jesus, that the New Testament would be written and confirmation from another of God's authentic messengers, Peter, that Paul's writings were Scripture. Paul's writings included this: "All Scripture is God-breathed ..." So the question becomes, "Does God make mistakes?"

But, look, this isn't just my line of thinking. I just summarized this piece by John Gerstner. So you go ahead and read it. You'll find a biblical and logical proof that the Bible is inerrant. Accepting it as such is, as always, up to you. Arguing, "No such argument exists", however, is a lie.

For further reference, here's D.A. Carson briefly on the inerrancy of Scripture and how essential it is to Christianity.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Where do you want to go?

Remember that old Microsoft tag line? "Where do you want to go today?" I wonder the same things in the midst of some "agreeable" conversations.

The discussion on essentials reminded me of the old line -- "Two people separated by a common language." (For those who took part in the dialog, I'm not directly speaking to anything anyone said. The conversation just brought this to mind.)

In terms of "essentials" when it comes to the essentials of salvation, we'd like to think, "All you have to do is put your faith in Christ and you're saved." My, my, how simple that is. We should all be in major agreement here. How nice!

And then I ask, "Where do you want to go today?" If you're from the Oneness group, you are going to have to explain who "Christ" is. This "Christ" is not the same one I have in mind. This one is "God", the only one. That is, there is no "God the Father" or "God the Holy Spirit" ... just Jesus -- God. Okay, so ... now you've gone somewhere else. Or if you're from another group, "faith in Christ" simply means "I trust in the goodness that was attributed to a mythical person we know as Jesus and want to be a good person, too." Nope, not the same Christ. You've gone another place.

"Saved" takes on its own meanings. To me, it's "saved from the just wrath of God". "Oh, no," another will assure me, "God has no wrath. It's just saved from being the person you shouldn't be. You know ... saved from sin." Others are quite certain that they're saved from discomfort, pain, illness, unhappiness. And, again, we've gone different places.

What about "faith"? What does that mean? Oh, that's easy. It just means it's something you agree with -- mental assent. Or is it something in which you put your confidence? Maybe it's something that motivates you to act? Maybe all of the above ... or none? And again we're going a variety of places.

And we end up back at the real original question. Is there a basic "essential" doctrine that defines what it means first and foremost to be "Christian"? Clearly the question isn't as easily answered as "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ", even though the Bible puts it that way. With so many variations on "believe", "Jesus", and "salvation", perhaps you can begin to see why it's not such a simple question. And that it's wise to find out, "Where do you want to go today?"

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Let's all do our part

The U.S. News and World Report touted this headline: "Save the Planet: Have Fewer Kids". (Don't blame them. The story was everywhere.) The story is out of Oregon State University. Apparently the real cause of global warming is ... people. Oh, not just the things we do. It's our existence.
A study by statisticians at Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environment-friendly practices people might employ during their entire lives — things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
Want to do the most you can to save the planet? Stop having kids. That's the message.

Of course, that's been the message all along, hasn't it? What causes extinction among animal species? Humans. What is causing this whole global warming problem? Humans. What is tearing up the planet for resources? Humans.

Look, this is really, really simple. Can it be any clearer? Eliminate humans and the planet is saved. Why are we lollygagging about? Let's get this extermination of the human race going, eh? I mean ... you do want to save the planet, don't you?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Chosen

In a call recently from an 8-year-old to his pastor's call-in radio show, he asked about election. The pastor assured him that God chooses everyone. It's just that some people don't choose God.

Now, on the surface this sounds nice, but please, please, don't dig too deeply or you run into all sorts of problems. Take, for instance, the most obvious. If the New Testament constantly refers to believers as "the elect" (or "the chosen" or similar synonyms) and God chooses everyone, then it would stand to reason that everyone is "elect" and, therefore, saved. Of course, the pastor on the radio would surely deny that, so we have to figure out something else.

The more popular idea is "God chooses everyone in a sense, but the real 'elect' are those who choose Him." Yeah, that's the ticket! Where are we going with this? Well, it is essential in many (most?) people's minds to keep intact the human Free Will. It is key that humans make the choice apart from ... what ... any influence? I would suggest that free will occurs when the choice is made without coercion, but that doesn't seem to go over very well. That is, if God gave a human being a new inclination (to, say, choose Him), then that person's choosing of God would not be "free will". So I guess the idea is that Free Will must be without influence.

Well, of course, that's just silliness. All choices are influenced. If, indeed, there is no influence, choices can't be made. We have to have a reason to make a choice between two things. Something in the options has to influence us to choose one thing over another. The simple truth is that this kind of "Free Will" (uninfluenced autonomy) doesn't exist. We are all influenced by surroundings, preferences, circumstances, conditions, inclinations, peer pressure ... or in philosophical terms, "lots and lots of things".

There is another problem. We know some things from Scripture that establish certain parameters. We know, for instance, that "Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor 2:14). That's right. There is a "cannot" in there along with the "does not" -- an inability. And we know this from the lips of our Savior: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). Allow me to repeat: "The flesh profits nothing." Someone once said, "And that's not a little something." Paul tells us "The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom 8:6-8).

These are just a few parameters we know from Scripture. How does that relate to the problem at hand? Well, here's the idea. God chooses everyone, but the only ones who are "elect" are those who choose God. It is "those who choose God" that determine who is elect. Now, let me ask you ... to "choose God", is it required that you understand something about the things of the Spirit of God? Anything? If you choose God (as a dead-in-sin sinner), is it actually accurate of Christ to say that the flesh profits nothing? I mean, it was sufficient to get you to make the right choice. And what has to occur for a person who is "in the flesh" (the standard definition of all unbelievers) to overcome their own death, bypass their hostility toward God, and actually accomplish what Paul says they cannot accomplish -- pleasing God by choosing Him?

Choice. You may think it's a little thing. You may see human Free Will as sacrosanct. Not even God will mess with that. And what is a choice? Just a little thing, right? Well, in this case it transcends an inability to comprehend, makes something out of nothing, supersedes death, overcomes hostility toward God, and actually accomplishes the impossible. That's no small thing, if you ask me. In fact, I have to tell you, if that is what determines between the "chosen" and the "not chosen", the Chosen have a lot to brag about because doing the difficult is one thing but doing the impossible is something else entirely.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Gender Complementarity

I learned a new phrase: "gender complementarity". Cool! I like new things like that. So ... um ... what does it mean? Well, "complementarity" is "The state or quality of being complementary". "Fine," you say, " ... so what in the world does that mean?" Well, obviously it's when you say nice things about people. No, kidding. "Complementary" (as opposed to "complimentary") means "completing" (in short). The idea is this. Presence A has these qualities and those shortcomings. Presence B has those qualities and these shortcomings. Put them together and what do you get? A complete, working model. The idea, then, behind gender complementarity is that men have these qualities and those shortcomings while women have those qualities and these shortcomings. Put them together and you've got a great working model. Apart, and you might hear, "It is not good for Man to be alone" or something like it. So where am I going with this?

Perhaps you've heard this before. "Children do best growing up in a home with a mother and a father." Now, I dare you ... toss that grenade out in an open forum and see what happens in the fallout. You see why, I assume. If we agree that "mother and father" are best for kids, then what do we do with "mother and mother" or "father and father" kids? You can likely see fairly quickly that the idea of same-sex couples raising children becomes questionable.

Of course, it will be instantly repudiated. But have you ever looked at the repudiation? Here are the types of responses you'll see. "Married couples are no better than other family forms at raising children." (An argument in a vacuum.) "Children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving." (One of the all-time favorites.) "Abuse is rampant in the traditional family." (Similar to and related to the previous, but different.)

What's wrong with these repudiations? They're fair, aren't they? Well, not quite. Going in reverse, claiming "abuse is rampant" may or may not be a true statement, but in this argument it is irrelevant. (Wait for it.) In the same way, claiming that children "do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving" may (or may not) be true, but the claim is irrelevant. You see, these responses pose the conditions this way: "Which is better, adults who love each other or adults who don't? Which is better, adults who abuse the child or adults that don't?" See the problem? The way these responses are stated, the suggestion is "Married couples likely hate each other and abuse the children, while same-sex couples likely love each other and don't abuse the children." This argument, of course, is unsupportable. You see, we all agree that children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable, and loving. Who is saying otherwise? And we all agree that abusing children is bad. Who is saying it isn't? Further, the failure of some relationships (two gender or same gender) to be what they ought to be either toward each other or toward the children is not relevant to what is best for children. The question is this: Given a married mother and father who love each other and love their child(ren) and a same-sex couple who love each other and love their child(ren), which is better for the children? All that folderal about "loving couples" and "abusive parents" is smoke screen. Let's compare the choices under the same conditions.

Now, the argument would next be made, "Well, if 'Married couples are no better than other family forms at raising children' is an argument in a vacuum, then so is 'Children do best growing up in a home with a mother and a father'." And that is true. Is there any reason to say that a married mother and father who love their children are best for the children? Indeed!

First, the science. According to Patricia Morgan, sociologist, "We've had 20 years of very well-controlled statistics and all the time we get this repeated conclusion: children do best educationally, behaviorally and in every other sphere when raised by two original biological, married parents." Dr. A Dean Byrd reported "the results of decades of research showing that children need both a mother and a father in order to grow into emotionally mature adults." The good doctor says "There is no fact that has been established by social science literature more convincingly than the following: all variables considered, children are best served when reared in a home with a married mother and father." (I recommend reading the report. It is interesting and brings up many valid points.) Regardless of what you've been told, both tradition and science agree: "Children do best growing up in a home with a mother and a father."

Of course, I've got this whole thing backward at this point, but I did it just to demonstrate that that which is true is not necessarily only true in the Bible; it is most often also true in the secular world. But I, of course, am most convinced by Scripture. So what does Scripture say? Well, I've covered that at length in multiple other places. The Bible structures families as "man and wife", "father and mother". There are no "same sex couples" in biblical reference anywhere. Nowhere do you find a single command that hints "in the case of 'non-traditional' families I give these instructions". No, no. They are always instructions to fathers and mothers, husbands and wives. Someone might choose to argue, "Well, doesn't it say 'Children, obey your parents'? How is that 'gender complementarity'?" Well, let's think about that for must a moment. What does it take to make "parent" plural ("parents")? It takes ... two. Okay. How do you define "parent"? "One who begets, gives birth to, a child; a father or mother." If one parent is "mother", then two parents is "father and mother" (or vice versa). No same-sex couple can beget/give birth to a child. Of course, regardless of modern definition, "parent" in Scripture is abundantly clear. Children are commanded to "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12), not "parent-generic". Where children are told "be obedient to your parents in all things" (e.g., Col 3:20), the command is prefaced or followed with commands to husbands and wives (Col 3:18-19) and, interestingly, fathers (Col 3:21) (not mothers). (Compare with Eph 5:22-6:4.) Clearly the biblical (godly) plan is "husband and wife" who are parents to "children".

Since the Bible is clearly in favor of a married mother and father as parents to children, and since science "by coincidence" agrees, it would seem that there is no reason to deny that gender complementarity is God's ideal for children -- "in the best interest of the child". Now, I know that people will dispute it, but they do so against both science and Scripture and, from every argument I've seen, with bad logic.